StrategyFebruary 25, 2013

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Arizona Diamondbacks

By Michael Kropman

Hopes were high for the Arizona Diamondbacks entering 2012. Coming off a 94-win season and an NL West title, GM Kevin Towers made it clear he was hoping for even better things by scooping up Minnesota slugger Jason Kubel, as well as trading key prospects (including Jarrod Parker) for Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow.

Unfortunately, the moves did not pay off, as Arizona could only muster 81 wins and a disappointing third-place finish in the NL West. While injuries and a lack of clutch performance were blamed, it seemed as if regression may have been the real culprit. Arizona outperformed their Pythagorean expectation by six wins in 2011, while underperforming by five wins in 2012. Nevertheless, Towers reacted to the disappointing season by doing what he does best: he unloaded his high potential youngsters (and Stephen Drew).

Seemingly unhappy with the development of young slugger Justin Upton and the mercurial Trevor Bauer, the Diamondbacks washed their hands of the risk each carried, swapping them to the Braves and Indians, respectively, for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, and shortstop prospect Didi Gregorious, as well as other smaller parts. The talking heads are sure to keep a close eye on how these trades work out, and will no doubt let Towers hear it if Upton and Bauer realize their vast potential elsewhere.

That’s not to say that Arizona is replete of talent by any means. Their lineup and rotation carries a healthy mix of potential and proven talent. While a repeat of 2011 is unlikely, they are in a nice position to challenge the defending champion Giants and free spending Dodgers for NL West supremacy.

In “30 Teams in 30 Days,” the Fantasy Baseball Cafe will preview each team in Major League Baseball on a daily basis. In addition to projecting starting lineups, rotations and closing situations, the Cafe will identify potential targets for 2013 fantasy baseball drafts.
Offensive Starters

C Miguel Montero.286.391.4386515880573 
1B Paul Goldschmidt.286.359.49082208218587 
2B Aaron Hill.302.360.52293268514668 
SS Cliff Pennington.215.278.3115062815462w/OAK
3B Martin Prado.301.359.43881107017690w/ATL
LF Jason Kubel.253.327.5067530901571 
CF Adam Eaton.259.382.41219252103 
RF Cody Ross.267.326.4817022812528w/BOS

Unsettled: Center field. The Diamondbacks lost two-thirds of their outfield, with the aforementioned Upton going to Atlanta and Chris Young taking off to Oakland. Manning the helm in right field is Cody Ross, who is coming off a surprisingly productive season in Boston. However, in center field, the D-Backs have decided to give diminutive speedster Adam Eaton first crack at the job. While his numbers were nothing special in his cup of coffee last year, he brings an exciting skill set that would be best slotted at the top of Arizona’s batting order. He has the potential to put up a low K% and high OBP to go along with 30-steal speed. He is definitely one to target late in drafts for the possibility of ending the season with numbers comparable to Jose Altuve. If he struggles, the steady Gerardo Parra will be next in line.
Target: Aaron Hill. I bet you thought I was going to say Paul Goldschmidt, didn’t you? While I do like Goldie’s prospects going into this season, I have doubts that he can steal 20 bases again, and his K% is still a bit on the scary side, even if he has shown improvement. I can also see the hype becoming a bit much and pushing him higher than he should be given the risk he carries. This is the exact opposite of what I see happening to Aaron Hill.
Right now, Hill’s ADP is 87, good for No. 7 on the second basemen list, despite putting up numbers in 2012 that bested every second baseman not named Robinson Cano. The skepticism of a repeat seems to lie in the perception that Hill has put up wildly inconsistent numbers over the course of his career. I’m here to tell you that this is not true in the least. A closer examination of Hill’s numbers from 2009 to 2012 shows an extremely consistent skill set of near elite contact rates and better than average power that has twice been stymied by bad luck. In 2010, his .196 BABIP was the culprit, a number that he has never been within 70 points of before or since. In 2011, a 4% HR/FB did him in, along with the nagging injuries he dealt with all season. Not surprisingly, his HR/FB climbed back up to his career marks in 2012 and his home run numbers followed suit.
While his 2012 numbers most likely represent his ceiling, I see no reason why he can’t hit 25 HRs and steal 10 bases to go along with 170 total runs and RBI combined. While his batting average was a bit inflated last season, I think a reasonable expectation would be in the mid .280s. My advice to you would be to discard the risk everyone else seems to be worried about and bid confidently. There’s an excellent chance Hill finishes within the top five at his position, and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if climbed into the top three.
The Rotation
Ian Kennedy (R)15-124.021.3018755208.1 
Brandon McCarthy (R)8-63.241.257324111.0w/OAK
Trevor Cahill (R)13-123.781.2915676200.0 
Wade Miley (L)16-113.331.1814437194.2 
Patrick Corbin (L)6-84.541.338625107.0 

Unsettled: The Diamondbacks’ rotation is perhaps the most boring in all of baseball from a fantasy perspective. While the top four are going to be drafted in almost every league, not one will be expected to illicit a huge positive response from your draft mates. From serviceable ace Ian Kennedy to the overachieving Wade Miley, the Diamondbacks have a rotation that will keep their team in games, but won’t blow anyone away. While Patrick Corbin seemed to fit right in as a solid, if unspectacular option, there is more underneath the surface than people may think (as evidenced by his 8.2 K/9 in the second half). Of course, I imagine he’s simply keeping the seat warm until this next young man gets the call up.
Target: Tyler Skaggs. While Trevor Bauer got all the press, it was Skaggs who ended up with the better year. In fact, it may have been Skaggs’s improvement that convinced management that Bauer was expendable. Currently ranked around the early teens in prospect lists, Skaggs put up a 2.91 ERA in Triple-A last year, a feat made even more impressive considering it was done in the notoriously hitter-friendly PCL. While he struggled in his call-up to the majors last season, there’s little worry that he has what it takes, and he is sure to compete for the final spot in Arizona’s rotation. If it seems as if he’s secured a job in spring training, he’s absolutely a player you want to take a flier on later in drafts.
The 8th and 9th Innings
J.J. Putz (R)322.821.03651154.1 
David Hernandez (R)42.501.02982268.1 

Chasing Saves: 2012 was a nice follow up to J.J. Putz’s breakout 2011. While his save totals dropped from 45 to 32, he still put up excellent ratios and strikeout numbers. While he is a bit long in the tooth at 36, there shouldn’t be much trepidation in taking him as a low-end No. 1 to high-end No. 2 closer. If Putz does wear down or get hurt, however, things get very interesting.
Aside from his save totals, David Hernandez put up numbers that rivaled almost any other reliever in the major leagues. He struck out 13 batters per nine innings, good for fourth in baseball. While he held lefties to a .240 average, he was absolutely brutal against righties, who could only muster hitting .145. Hernandez is one of only a few middle relievers worth rostering in a 12-team league, due to his ratio help and ability to punch out 100 batters in a relief role. If he does gain the closer role at any point, he could instantly become a top-five stopper.
Final Thoughts
2013 should be an interesting year for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and should reveal quite a bit about the ability of Kevin Towers to construct a baseball team. If Upton and Bauer break out on their new teams, and the D-Backs continue their slide down the NL West rankings, Towers could quickly find himself on the hot seat. However, if youngsters Adam Eaton, Wade Miley and Tyler Skaggs prove to be the real deal, Arizona could sneak up on some teams and find themselves squarely in the middle of the wild-card hunt by season’s end.
Check back tomorrow for our look at the Colorado Rockies.

Michael Kropman is a transplanted New Yorker currently teaching high school math up in tiny little Rhode Island. You can find him in the cafe posting under the user name Inukchuk.
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